It’s not council’s fault the Rainbow employee housing development does not appear to be moving forward, according to Mayor Ken Melamed.
“We did what we could,” he said. “We held up our end of the bargain.”
The mayor’s brief comments were issued during Monday’s council meeting in response to community concerns that there is not much work happening on the 45-acre site just north of Alpine Meadows.
The Rainbow proponents have not yet submitted their final plans for grading, services and geotechnical work. When that happens, the municipality is committed to turning around those plans as quickly as possible.
“That’s all I can say,” said Melamed.
The Rainbow development, which is predominantly an employee housing project, was given final approval in early June. Work was expected to get underway immediately.
Project manager Bill Hayes said this week there is a tremendous amount of work going on behind the scenes with engineers, planners, lawyers and the architects.
“We are working diligently on it as fast as possible,” he said.
He admitted there are still 130 drawings to be submitted to the municipality. He expects the first 25 drawings will be handed in this week.
But the unique mixture of employee housing and market housing makes Rainbow a very complicated development.
“It’s probably one of the most complex projects that’s gone through the municipality,” said Hayes.
The first phase of development is still on track said Hayes. Most of that work will take place next spring and he expects the first phase occupancy dates of fall 2008 to stick.
Whistler asked to support minimum wage increase
Council will consider adding Whistler to a growing number of communities lobbying for an increase to the provincial minimum wage.
The B.C. Federation of Labour is calling on the provincial government to raise the minimum wage to $10, up from the $8 per hour rate, which has been in place since November 2001. It is also asking that the minimum wage be indexed to inflation.
Sandy Bauer, representing the Squamish and District Labour Committee, appealed to council to join the more than 20 communities in the province, including Squamish, in the lobbying efforts.
The mayor said the issue has been on council’s radar screen for the past several months and has been referred to the Chamber of Commerce for input.
Council promised Bauer it would debate the issue before the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver Sept. 24-28.
Muni hall reno scrapped
The municipal hall renovation and expansion may be on hold for the time being but council is making provisions for the future.
As it scrapped the now $15.8 million project, up from the $5.7 million budget in seven months, council made sure the project was to be included as a line item in the upcoming Five Year Financial Plan.
“I’m sorely disappointed that this has come to this,” said Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. “But it would be fiscally imprudent.”
Municipal development manager Gerry Longson explained why the budget jumped by $10 million in such a short time period.
It appeared that as the detailed costing came together, more and more components and problems presented themselves, such as poor soil conditions and issues with the building itself. And so, the scope of the project changed.
Compounding that problem was the fact that construction cost escalation built into the original budget was lower than real costs, as staff was expecting that number to come down over time. That has not happened.
In light of the cost to renovate Councillor Eckhard Zeidler suggested that council might want to revisit earlier studies, which examine various options for the hall: renovating, selling, or building anew.
Whistler won’t pull money from regional planning
Upon sober second thought, council has decided to continue participating in the regional district planning function.
Whistler had decided to pull out of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District planning last September after feeling its voice wasn’t being heard at the board table.
Whistler contributes by far the highest amount to regional planning — more than 70 per cent in 2006 — but has only one vote of nine at the table.
The issue came to a head over the Green River Estates development just outside Whistler’s northern boundary.
Among the reasons for continuing to pay into the planning function is that without Whistler’s contribution, regional planning could have a very uncertain future. It would also mean that Whistler would have no vote at the table on planning issues.
Council said it hoped the threat of Whistler leaving the SLRD planning had emphasized the importance of the municipality’s participation.